- String Quartet No. 2
- String Quartet No. 5
This is the second in a pair of albums covering the string quartets of Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz, who found the way -- perhaps more successfully than anyone else -- between the French neoclassicism in which she was trained (by Nadia Boulanger) and the post-World War II avant-garde, and to stay on the good side of Communist cultural censors to boot. In her string quartets, in particular, she seems to pick up a mid-century style and apply modern procedures to it. Especially interesting in this set is the "String Quartet No. 4" of 1951, which deploys folk-like themes that could have come from Bartók and then breaks them up, quite violently in the opening movement, into smaller units, all while maintaining a semblance of traditional sonata form. The early "String Quartet No. 2," also showing the influence of folk idioms, was composed in 1943, under extremely difficult circumstances, yet has an affirming finale. The "String Quartet No. 5" of 1955 has a fascinating variation finale in which it is really textures, not melodies, that are varied; this intrinsically modern concept is applied to a big Beethovenian style with virtuoso fugal treatments. It would be hard to fault the performances here by the Lutoslawski Quartet, which are precise and revealing of important details, but the Wroclaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, the recording site, was a bit spacious for this intimate, intense, and highly communicative music. Bacewicz was well known in Poland, but her music has only gradually gained traction in the West; this recording should help the process along.